"You have all done a fantastic job so far, but our final mission is far from over."
I stand up on my toes a bit to see over the other aurors. Our Head of Department, Harry Potter, was briefing all of the aurors in our office about the next stage of our current mission.
"The the leaders of the terrorist group who call themselves Grindlewald's Heirs have been imprisoned, but that does not mean we have taken down their entire operation. If anything, the ones remaining are more dangerous because of their lack of solid leadership. The remaining members will have little concern for whether or not their acts will help further their goals. They will be highly impulsive and unpredictable."
Maybe I should grow a few more inches. My pants would look pretty stupid but at least I could see over this crowd of people. Being fresh out of training, the other aurors send me to the back of the room during these awkward "let's just meet in the middle of the cubicles" meetings and give me the worst assignments after Harry finally tells us what our objectives are. Not that I'm complaining too much. I can become a team leader myself some day if I only work hard and drop a few names to a few choice individuals…
But I digress. Harry has finally finished his speech about how the battle for eradicating these Gridlewald loving imbeciles and has moved on to assigning what each team needs to accomplish. I pick my backpack off the floor and quickly rush over to my own team when I hear Harry's voice once again over the crowd of aurors.
"Lupin!" He yells, pointing to me. "I have a special assignment for you. See me in my office."
I internally groan. Everybody knows that you have to listen to Harry's words carefully. If he tells you he has a "different assignment", it means that you get to do some kind of exciting, top secret operation. If he tells you he has a "special assignment", it means you have to go undercover as a sewage cleaner.
Unless maybe, Harry wants to make it look like he's not favoring me in front of the other aurors. Maybe this is actually a reward for that unpleasant Leaky Caldron assignment last week.
See, Harry Potter is not only my boss but my godfather. A lot of people just assume that because of that I get all of the good assignments, but that's just usually not true. Harry tries really hard to treat me just like the others and even goes as far as making it look like I get more lame assignments than everyone else. He wants to make sure everyone know he doesn't let his personal feelings get in the way of his job.
Of course, if you spend enough time with Harry Potter, you'll notice that he lets his personal feelings get in the way all the time.
"This is a ridiculous assignment," I tell Harry bluntly the second he finishes explaining it. He wipes his hand across his forehead and pushes the folder towards me.
"Look Teddy, I know you deserve a better assignment than this, especially after that debacle at the Leaky Caldron, which, by the way, was not approved by me."
I open the folder and look at the description. I cannot believe he actually made a folder for this excuse of an assignment.
"Harry, you're basically telling me to go take your daughter shopping! Do you really think this is the best use of anyone's time and energy?"
"Protection detail, Teddy! She wants to go out in the open where those Grindlewald's Heirs can find her. I've made her stay inside for most of her summer vacation so far, and if I don't let her out soon she'll just leave without permission and get herself killed!"
I sigh and take the folder, flipping through the few pages. "Is she at home?"
"No. She's actually in Ron's office doing her summer homework."
I nod and get up out of my chair. "I assume Lily is resisting this?"
"That's an understatement," Harry sighs. "Look, I know neither of you really want to do this and you both think I'm being pretty paranoid, but I promise I'll convince Thomson to give you better assignments if you do this for me. At least here you don't have to transform into a ditzy bimbo of a waitress."
"Who says I didn't like being Bambi the blonde bus girl!" I ask as I leave for Ron Weasly's office.
Ron's office is a lot smaller than Harry's, but no where near as small as some of the other offices at the ministry. There is a large locked chest on one wall and a chalkboard hastily covered with a sheet. Under it he probably has a bunch of notes and diagrams he does not want people casually looking at walking past his office, but not strictly confidential. In the back, he has a desk covered in papers, pictures of his two kids and a pair of flip flop adorned feet.
Lily looks up from the copy of Teen Witch Weekly covering her face. I have no idea know why she reads it. The cover alone gives me a headache with all those quickly moving faces and bright flashy colors. Without a word she stands up and places the magazine in her bright purple purse. She approaches me and gives me a reproachful look; if I did not know her I would have laughed at such a small person trying to looking so formidable.
"Harry's given me the day off," I tell her. "Do you want to go shopping?"
Lily smiles and rolls her eyes. "I cannot believe this. I'm fifteen! When my dad was fifteen he got to escape from school and fly to the Ministry on gigantic death horses-"
"Theastrals, you mean?"
Lily shakes her head and laughs. "Just something James likes to call them…"
She trails off as the laughter and joy flees her freckled face. "You want to go to that obnoxious muggle coffee chain with the twenty galleon lattes?" I ask, knowing that Lily likes hanging out in muggle London on occasion.
"Yes." She says quickly, the smile returning to her face as she waltzes out of the room. "I need to get some new muggle clothes without my mom around. I mean, she gets muggle clothes enough to blend in and all, but whenever I shop with her she suggests the stupidest outfits. I'm always like, 'No mum, that looks stupid,' and she says 'You can't wear what you picked out, you'll look like a hooker'. I don't know what she classifies as a hooker, but I swear I don't dress as slutty as some of the other girls."
We leave the Ministry and continue down the streets of London, Lily's short red hair bobbing at my shoulder and her mouth blabbing about how she's been trapped at home all summer. I glance around to make sure no one is looking and gesture to a nearby phone booth for us to apparate to where Lily's favorite stores are.
Harry still made me angry for giving me such a boring, useless assignment, but at least I got to spend time with Lily. The Potter kids think of me as kind of an older brother to them, and as far as I'm concerned those three are the best little siblings in the world. Harry grew up without a family. I think that's why he lets me borrow his on occasion.
"-Al is so lucky. He's of age, so Mum and Dad can't make him do crap like this. He's been going out like every night with his friends from his select Quidditch team after practice. He come home practically hammered every night and Mum and Dad barely notice," she blabs as we walk into the coffee shop. She pulls out a bright pink wallet and approaches the front of the store. "I'd like a vanilla latte with soy, and he'd like, what do you want Teddy?"
"Do they have Earl Gray?"
"Not in latte form," She says with a smile as I open my wallet. "He'd like and Earl Gray boring tea. Put your wallet away Teddy, this is all Dad's money. The least he can do is buy you a stupid tea for wasting your valuable time babysitting me."
"It's on the job. I'll get reimbursed."
"Please don't tell me your tea is where our taxpayer money is going," Lily grabs our drinks and walks to a little table with sugar and milk on it. I pick up one of the pitchers and uncap my tea when out of the corner of my eye I notice a man shifting his weight back and forth in the corner and glancing in our direction every few seconds. I lifted the tea to my mouth as I quickly took a mental catalogue of what he wore. Baseball cap, nice dress shirt and bow tie, a large belt buckle with a money sign plastered across it and a pair of running shoes. No muggle would wear something so ridiculous. I sip some of my tea as I study him further, until an overwhelming sense of disgust fills my mouth. This is not like any Earl Gray tea I've ever tasted. I glance over to see Lily examining a jar of cocoa powder and sprinkling it in her drink.
"Let me see that," I say, grabbing the jar and simultaneously tipping her drink off the table and towards the trash can. "Oh no!" I gasp, pulling her away from the hot liquid. I grab a napkin, slip my wand from my sleeve into my hand, and feign wiping up the mess while actually performing a poison detecting spell on the liquid. There is some kind of magical substance in Lily's spilled latte, though it could be as harmless as a pimple remover. Something tells me it's a bit more sinister though.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Lily! And you didn't even drink any, I assume?"
"No, not a sip. I'm going to get another."
"Later maybe. Let's go shopping a little first," I say, practically pulling her out the door.
"What's going on?" Lily asks me as she tries to break free of my grasp. I let go and notice one of my superiors Todd Thompson standing a little ways off in a nondescript suit and tie.
"I just wanted to come over and tell you that I really love your suit," I tell him. He stands up and faces me conversationally.
"Thank you. Your outfit looks nice too, but your hair is just not doing it for me. Neither yours nor your sister Lainey's. I'd suggest giving her something more mature."
"I'll keep that in mind." I pull her into the store next-door and lead her to a dressing room. Inside the dressing room, I glance in the mirror and quickly turn my currently dark brown hair a few shades lighter. I don't need to use my wand; I'm a metamorphmagus, meaning I can change my appearance at will. I quickly bleach the red out of Lily's hair and give her blue eyes. I study her face quickly and make myself look like I could be one of her brothers.
"Hold on to the edge," I say, adding a few inches to her tiny frame and a few years to her young face. Perfect. She could pass off as a person of age now, not someone who is asked at restaurants if she wants a kid's menu.
"Your alias is Lainey Grey. I'm Tim Grey. We're brother and sister. I took off work today to spend time with you."
"What's going on?"
"Grindlewald's Heirs," I whisper so quietly she barely hears. "Let's get out of here." I grab my wand and her arm tightly, spin around and BAM, the feeling of colliding with a brick wall rushes across my chest.
"Damn. Anti-Apparation charms. We're screwed."
The curtain to the dressing room falls on the floor. Standing there is the oddly dressed man and the barista. "Yes. Yes you are," The second man says as he reaches for Lily. "Any funny business and the girl dies."